When I was five years old, my parents decided it was time for me to visit my grandparents in Jackson, Mississippi. I was born in Chicago and had not visited my grandparents since I was three months old. My Uncle Albert's daughter, Virleen, was my chaperone. She was excited about going because she had not been there in a long time.
Preparations were made, tickets bought and we were off via the Illinois Central train. I remember having a tag around my neck. I thought that was awful. My mom insisted just in case something happened. We finally arrived in Jackson after travelling all night. My grandmother and cousins met us at the train. I, immediately, did not like my grandma! She was very prissy, with her hands folded and a very stern face. She reminded me of a "big bad mother wolf!" She expected me to run and kiss her but I didn't! That didn't go over very well. That was mistake #1! It was also the beginning of a very unhappy and unpleasant first visit.
Once we arrived at her house. I had to meet, or so it seemed to me, a million relatives. I had never been fondled and kissed so much in my life. It was very disturbing because I was tired. I was angry and very uncooperative. I told grandma I was hungry. She told me I had to wait and I asked why? That was mistake #2! She just said, "because I said so." That did it. I said to myself, "I will never speak to this woman again in my life." So I sat there and pouted. That was mistake #3! Much to my surprise, however, I made it through the night without being slaughtered.
When I got up the next morning I saw my grandfather in his office. I went into the office very quietly. When he heard me approaching he turned around and gave me a big hug. I was immediately mesmerized with this wonderful man. He was not a tall man. He was of medium build and bald, but with a very quiet manner. He was warm and consoling like a grandfather is suppose to be. I thought he was very handsome. I sat on his lap for a while. Then he said he wanted me to go with him to feed the animals and get something for dinner. Well, since I was from the City I thought we were going to the grocery store. Little did I know.
The first stop was through the pasture where the cows were. Papa was trying to explain everything about the cows to me. I was too frightened to hear a word he was saying. I didn't want to go near any cows! He started laughing and told me that we had to get milk for the day. I looked at him in amazement. "And, how do we do that?" I asked, my eyes wide and my hands on my hips. I was a true city girl! He looked at me and laughed again. I laughed too. I had no idea why I was laughing because I was not kidding. I had never heard about milking cows.
He proceeded to put a pail under a cow and invited me to watch while he performed the act. I told him I didn't want to and started crying. So he gave me a reprieve. When Papa finished the milking he took the pail into the house.
Then on to the next stop--THE HOGS! That was the most horrendous scene I had ever witnessed. I did not know much about hogs but never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine that they ate slop and garbage. This was another scene I couldn't stand.
I asked Papa if I could go sit in the chair by the tree while he finished. He laughed and said I could. By this time, I was ready to go back to Chicago. One day of this was enough for me.
When he finished with the disgusting hogs, we marched to the coop where the chickens were. I wanted no part of this either. Papa questioned me about chickens. Did I like them or not? When I told him yes he said, "Well, you are really going to like these because they will be cooked from freshly prepared chickens." I had no idea what he was talking about.
Then he went into the coop, grabbed a chicken and started wringing its neck until it fell off. I started screaming and shaking! It was like he had done that to me! Grandma and a mob of other folks came running out of the house. I was hysterical! All this time the poor chicken was running around the coop with no head! I see it even now. Even now I can still feel the horror.
That was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen. My aunt took me into the house and gave me a warm glass of ovaltine and made me lie down. There was no sleeping, no resting, no peace for me that morning. Every time I closed my eyes I could see that headless chicken; jumping and flopping around that coop!
I got up and went on the porch. My aunt was there and I asked her why Papa killed the chicken. She said it was for dinner tonight. I thought I was going to throw up. I stood there, tears welled up in my eyes again, and I asked, "Who's going to eat it?" She told me we all were. I said very emphatically, "I ain't eating that poor chicken".
Aunt Minnie said: "It's not 'ain't,' honey...it is 'am not.'"
I said, "I AM NOT GOING TO EAT THAT POOR CHICKEN!"
Then I ran off down the road. I had started crying again and had no idea where I was going. My cousin followed me. He took me to a big oak tree and we sat there for a long while. He proceeded to explain to me about the lifestyle in the South. He told me that the chickens I ate in the City were killed in the same way. The only difference was that I saw them kill this chicken. He talked for a long time about the country, about how they lived and the fun they always had. I was not convinced, but I had calmed down some so we went back home.
Later that evening, when we were getting ready for dinner, I saw the chicken on the platter. I told my grandmother that I was not going to eat it. That was mistake #4! She asked me why. I told her because it was not right to kill that chicken for us to eat. She was furious. But she said I didn't have to eat any. Even though I didn't have to eat any chicken, all of a sudden I didn't want anything to eat. This made my grandmother even more furious. I told her I was ready to go home. I had only been there one day.
The folks around the table did not say a word. They didn't even look up. At this point, I thought Grandma was going to throw me out the door. But she said very calmly that I was not going home and that I could go to the bedroom for the remainder of the night. That was a blessing for me because I thought I hated that place and every one there.
As the days passed, things got better. I was falling into line. I discovered that my cousin was right. I had a wonderful time with all of the family. Still, I did not venture into the fields and I did not eat chicken or any other meat while I was there. I did learn a lot about farming, enough to make me realize that it was not for me.
I thought I hated Grandma, but as I grew older I realized she was really an "Ole Sweetie Pie" and she only acted like that because everyone expected her to. It was a very long time before I was able to eat chicken. But once I started I never stopped. Now it is one of my favorite fowls prepared any way you like. However, I have never forgotten that event. My wonderful grandmother never forgot it either.
I have always regretted the fact that my children and grandchildren never had that experience. They have no idea what farming is really all about and how wonderful life on a farm can be.
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Dorothy's Story List and Biography